IRI Home
IRI Climate Digest   January 2005

Climate Impacts - December

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
M. Bell, Dr. A. Giannini, E. Grover-Kopec,
Dr. B. Lyon, C. Ropelewski, Dr. A. Seth

Sort by sector
Sort by Region


Asia - Malaysia,Thailand  Heavy northeast monsoon rainfall brought flooding to portions of Malaysia and Thailand during December. Climatologically, November and December are the wettest months in this region. While flooding is normal during monsoon season in these areas, reports indicate that this was the worst such event to affect Malaysia's east coast. In Malaysia, Kelantan was the most affected state, although Terengganu and Pahang also experienced flooding. Thirteen deaths were reported, and 15,000 people were evacuated in Kelantan. Three-quarters of Kota Baru, the state's capital, was submerged and the water level at the Kota Baru Customs jetty was the highest ever recorded (2 meters above normal). In Thailand, the provinces of Narathiwat, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, and Yala were affected. Damages in Thailand have been estimated at USD 175,000,000. Two deaths were reported, and approximately 5000 people were evacuated. (CNN, DFO, ONASA News Agency, New Straits Times, Straits Times, NASA Earth Observatory)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates an enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in all of Thailand and peninsular Malaysia during February-April 2005, which coincides with the climatological dry season in this region.

Middle East - Iran  Three coastal provinces in Iran, Bushehr, Sistan-Balouchistan, and Hormozgan, were affected by flooding during December. Above-normal precipitation, some of which surpassed the 90th percentile for the month of December, has been blamed for the flooding (December precipitation percentile map). According to the Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO), 54 deaths were reported and approximately 4000 people were displaced by the flooding. Climatologically, these coastal areas of Iran receive most of their precipitation between December and March, with December contributing a larger portion to annual totals in the northern coastal areas (e.g., Bushehr province). (DFO MODIS Image)

South America - Colombia  According to some reports, rainfall totals in northern Colombia during October and November 2004 have been the highest for that time of year in the last eight or ten years (IFRC, IFRC). October is normally the rainiest part of the extended summer rainy season in many parts of northern Colombia (precip. climatology animation). About 350,000 people, many of whom have settled along the Caribbean coast to escape conflict elsewhere in Colombia, have been affected in some way by the heavy rainfall and associated flooding and landslides. According to IFRC, the heavy rains have resulted in 31 deaths and 72 injuries; about 470 houses have been destroyed and almost 20,300 others have been damaged. The national government declared a state of emergency in the departments of Atlantico, Bolivar, Cordoba, Cesar, Guajira, Magdalena, Santander, and Sucre on 11 November. (Plan, WFP, DFO)

Water Resources

Africa - Africa,South Africa  Below-normal precipitation during November has contributed to poor water resources and drought conditions in the provinces of Northwest, Western Cape, and Northern Cape in South Africa. Precipitation accumulations in some areas were below the 10th percentile for the month of November, which is generally when seasonal rains begin to ramp up in much of Northwest and Northern Cape (November precipitation percentile map). While it is common for water resources in parts of Northwest to dry up toward the end of the dry season, the entire province is experiencing severe water shortages this year due to poor rainfall, according to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (SABC). A veldfire in Northern Cape in early December was blamed on the associated dry conditions as well (SABC).

In Western Cape, three of the five regions in the province, Central Karoo, Boland, and West Coast, have been declared as disaster areas by the national ministry of agriculture. Some areas in the province have not received adequate rainfall since 2003. Approximately 6000 farm households have been affected by the drought, and some farmers have left their farms to find alternative income. Assessments indicate that livestock farmers in Central Karoo and wheat farmers in West Coast are among the worst hit by the drought. Fruit and wine farmers have reduced the frequency of crop watering to help conserve water levels in dams. Food prices, such as those of fruit, vegetables, milk and flour, are expected to rise significantly if rains do not improve by May 2005 (SABC). Urban areas are feeling the effects of the drought as well. The main dam for Durban is only 27 percent full, and Cape Town is under water restrictions that may become more strict in the near future if conditions do not improve (Reuters/Planet Ark).

Heavy rains during December in Western Cape proved to be both beneficial and damaging (December precipitation percentile map). According to the South African Weather Service, some areas received up to 200mm (7.8 in) of rain in a single 24-hour period (Estimated precipitation Dec 22-23 2004). While the rain helped some farmers plant their maize crops, damage estimates from flash flooding was estimated in the millions of rands, and the rain is not expected to ease the overall drought conditions in the region. (Reuters/Planet Ark)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for February-April 2005 indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for most of South Africa.


Africa - Uganda  As many as 500,000 pastoralists in the Karamoja region of northern Uganda are threatened with food shortages due to crop failures resulting from dry conditions earlier in the year (May-Oct 2004 WASP Index map). Second-season crops (harvested in January) have reportedly been affected by below-average rainfall as well. The poor rainfall has allowed Lake Victoria to drop to its lowest level in about ten years.(IRIN, FEWS Net)

Africa - Burundi  News sources and local officials have reported as many as 30 deaths from starvation in the provinces of Kirundo and Muyinga in northern and northeastern Burundi. Thousands more are reportedly threatened with starvation as well (IRIN). WFP has announced that it will begin assisting at least 520,000 people who are experiencing severe food shortages. Poor rainfall earlier in the year (Mar-May 2004 WASP Index map) and manioc mosaic virus are being blamed for an unsuccessful harvest (IRIN).

Africa - Eritrea  According to the FAO, about 2.3 million people in Eritrea need 262,000 metric tons in food aid as a result of continuing long-term drought and poor March-May and June-September 2004 rainfall (IRIN). As of mid-December 2004, the October-February "bahri" rains along the Red Sea Coast and eastern mountain escarpments of Eritrea had performed poorly as well. According to WFP/FAO estimates, cereal production in 2004 is expected to fall below last year's crop of 106,000 metric tons and far below the 1992-2003 average of 180,000 metric tons. (FEWS Net, IFRC)

Africa - Djibouti,Ethiopia  Pastoralists have suffered heavy livestock losses this year due to poor March-April rains in Djibouti and below-normal rainfall during June-September 2004 in eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti. The dry weather in 2004 has caused food and water shortages in the Afar region of eastern Ethiopia, where most of the population of 1.2 million people are pastoralists who rely on livestock and milk and milk products for their livelihoods (FEWS Net, IRIN). The search for water and pasture has disrupted normal migration patterns, and the decline in the condition of livestock has resulted in lower livestock prices (IRIN). FAO has requested funds to keep livestock from continuing to die in such large numbers. About 352,000 people in the Afar region currently receive food aid. Similar conditions in Djibouti have contributed to a decline in food security for about 2000 families there as well (IRIN).

Africa - Kenya  In the midst of an ongoing long-term drought in southeastern Kenya, both the long and short rains in 2004 were disappointing in the maize-growing areas of the country, including parts of the Eastern, Central, Coast, and Rift Valley provinces. Due largely to the poor performance of the March-May 2004 long rains, corn production is expected to decline 16 percent from 2003, down to 2.1 million metric tons. The USDA estimates the 2004 short rains corn crop production to be about 400,000 metric tons, compared to the five-year average of 500,000 tons (USDA). The Kenya Ministry of Agriculture issued a more pessimistic estimate of 300,000 metric tons for short rains maize. The short rains maize production in Eastern, Coast, and South Rift provinces was only about 45, 40, and 50 percent of normal, respectively (FEWS Net). In all, about 2.7 million people in Kenya will require food aid. Although the October-December 2004 short rains were generally good in pastoral areas in the north and also in parts of the east, difficulties with water resources are expected to continue in the southeast (FEWS Net).

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for February-April 2005 suggests a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in most of Kenya.

Africa - Niger  Poor rainfall during the 2004 rainy season and desert locusts have been blamed for below-normal grain production and poor pasture conditions in the agri-pastoral region of Niger, according to a senior Agriculture Ministry official. Conditions for planting in April 2004 were good, but rains stopped in May, and portions of the region remained dry for 3-6 weeks (June precipitation percentile map). Some areas were able to replant in July when rain returned to the region. Locusts, however, began to impact these same areas in August. (FAO)

Large decreases in cereal yields, particularly of millet and sorghum have been reported. Approximately 1/3 and 2/3 of the losses were due to drought and locusts, respectively, according to the FAO assessment. Government estimates have indicated that approximately 3 million people in the agri-pastoral areas are now extremely vulnerable to food insecurity, and estimates by WFP and the Ministry of Agriculture in Niger indicate that between 130,000 and 316,000 metric tons will be needed to avert famine conditions. The country will draw on remaining food stocks from the record harvest in 2003 to assist with the food need. The government is also subsidizing grain prices in the hardest hit areas and has accepted a financial pledge from France to assist in the situation. Traditional coping strategies have also been stressed. It is not uncommon for people to consume leaves during the lean season, but the trees in many areas have already been stripped of their leaves by the locusts. Herders have started to sell their livestock at a loss due to lack of fodder, which may have long-term implications on the local rural economies that are heavily dependent on cattle breeding. (FAO, IRIN, World Vision, WFP)

Asia - Sri Lanka  Parts of Sri Lanka were already under water before the tsunami hit the island nation on 26 December. Heavy rains associated with the northeast monsoon caused severe flooding in the northeast, primarily along the Mahaweli River and coastal areas. Over 800,000 people were displaced and approximately 1 million acres of paddy and agricultural fields were inundated by the flooding. More than 2000 houses were badly damaged as well. Landslides during the heavy rain killed at least 4 people in the central portion of the country. The recent flooding and landslides can be compared to the country's worst flooding event which occurred in May 2003 (June 2003 CID Report). Final damage assessments from that event indicated that 250 people were killed and nearly 1 million people were displaced. (NASA Earth Observatory, Gulf News, Xinhua, DPA)

Northeastern Sri Lanka generally receives most of its precipitation in December and January from the northeast monsoon. The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a moderately enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in Sri Lanka during February-April 2005; the southwest monsoon generally begins to affect southern and western Sri Lanka in April.

Asia - Thailand  Dry conditions and an early end to the May-October 2004 rainy season are expected to cause a decline in Thailand's rice and sugar crops. A December USDA report estimated that production from Thailand's main rice crop (harvested between October and January) will be about 13.4 million tons. Total production from both the main and secondary crops is expected to be about three percent below last year's record crop, and estimated yield is expected to fall below both the five-year average and last year's figure. Dry conditions by October 2004 (Oct 2004 WASP Index map) in northern and northeastern Thailand and on the Central Plain contributed to the estimated decline. The Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reported in November that about 1.77 million hectares of farmland had been damaged by drought (USDA). The dry weather in Thailand may also have significantly affected the sugar crop. Thailand is expected to ship between 3.8 and 3.9 million tons of sugar in the year ending on 30 September 2005, compared to last year's amount of 5.16 million tons (Bloomberg News).

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast suggests that there is a moderately enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation over much of Thailand during February-April 2005, which is largely within the dry season (Feb-Apr percentage of annual precipitation). However, this may still have a negative effect on the secondary cropping season (May-July harvest).

Contents | Special | Impacts | Climate | Forecast